Three days after Lee's escape and eleven days after the repulse of Lee at Gettysburg and the surrender of Pemberton's army to Grant at Vicksburg, there was issued from the White House a document entitled "Proclamation for Thanksgiving, July 15, 1863, but the President of the United States of America." In the flowing text and the undeniably mystic spirit that ran through this document, in the announcements that marched in diapasons of Old Testament prose, in the attitude of piety in which the name of Almighty God in various appellations was invoked, Lincoln set forth the Chief Magistrate of the Republic as a man of faith. Some could read a belief in fate and foreordination, or gambler's luck, or a superstitious individual's obedience to hoodoos and mascots, in this proclamation, but these were isolated philosophers.
"It has pleased Almighty God to hearken to the supplications and prayers of an afflicted people," ran the opening chords, "and to vouchsafe to the army and navy of the United States victories on land and on the sea so signal and effective as to furnish reasonable grounds for augmented confidence that the union of these States will be maintained, their Constitution preserved, and their peace and prosperity permanently restored." Those who had brought these winnings should be mentioned. "These victories have been according not without sacrifices of life, limb, health, and liberty, incurred by brave, loyal and patriotic citizens. Domestic affliction in every part of the country follows in the train of these fearful bereavements."
Then came a long paragraph composed entirely of one sentence, the longest in either a private letter or a state paper having the signature of Abraham Lincoln. In it was noticeable some of the tone and style of the churchman Seward, and proclamation may have been a joint product as in the closing paragraph of the first inaugural address. It employed three different appellations for the Deity, and was a formidable effort at delivering the impression that the Union of States and its Chief Magistrate were in possession of dignity, security, and high calm purpose in the midst of tumult, red-handed violence, and the smoke of desolate destruction. The sentence read:
"Now, therefore, be it known that I do set apart Thursday, the 6th day of August next, to be observed as a day for national thanksgiving, praise, and prayer, and I invite the people of the United States to assemble on that occasion in their customary places of worship, and, in the forms approved by their own consciences, render the homage due to the Divine Majesty for the wonderful things he has done in the nation's behalf, and to invoke the influences of his Holy Spirit to subdue the anger which has produced and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion, to change the hearts of the insurgents, to guide the counsels of the government with wisdom adequate to so great a national emergency, and to visit with tender care and consolation throughout the length and breadth of our land all those who, through the vicissitudes of marches, voyages, battles, and sieges have been brought to suffer in mind, body, or estate, and finally to lead the whole nation through the paths of repentance and submission to the Divine Will back to the perfect enjoyment of union and fraternal peace."